All signs pointed to a record year for small businesses on Cape Cod and business owners in Provincetown were looking forward to making up for 2020 when the COVID-19 public health emergency and subsequent government restrictions significantly impacted their high-season and their bottom lines.
At the start of the 2021 season, it looked as though their hopes were realized. One restaurant owner said they were having their best year on record, and Francesca Cerutti owner of Cape Art Tiles and The Cid Bolduc Gallery in Provincetown, said “Out of the gate, the season took off surprisingly, incredibly strong. May and June were the best many businesses had seen in years. For us, the sales trend was 30 percent higher than our best May and June ever in the 10 years since we opened our doors.”
But with the Delta variant causing a spike in COVID cases across much of the country and a high-profile cluster in Provincetown specifically, many of the businesses in Provincetown have seen their hopes of a banner year dashed.
“Up until mid-July all signs indicated that we would have the best summer in recorded history in Provincetown and on the Cape,” said Radu Luca, executive director of the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce. “However, due to recent developments, the last month or so has been very challenging for our businesses, due to a severe spike in cancellations and a massive drop in day trippers to Provincetown.”
Jay Hurley, director of sales at the Dolphin Fleet Whale Watch, said it was like a light switch went off when the news of the COVID cluster in Provincetown went national.
“And there is this ripple effect,” he said. “Everyone is suffering from the whale watch to candy stores and retail and restaurants.”
“Weeks later people are still saying they won’t come to Provincetown,” said John Avila of Captain John Boats, which operates a ferry from Plymouth to Provincetown as well as whale watches out of MacMillan Pier. He has seen his business drop by 80 percent; on a Friday in August, he had 26 people on his ferry when normally he would be transporting 200. “It’s absolutely devastating.”
To offer some financial relief and a bit of a morale boost to these battered businesses, the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Love Live Local, a Cape Cod small business advocacy organization, and their Cape Cod Resilience Fund to raise money for grants for Provincetown local businesses that are now struggling to make it through the summer and have received little in the way of government assistance.
The Cape Cod Resilience Fund was started by Love Live Local in April 2020 to provide direct grants to small business owners on Cape Cod to offer assistance through challenging economic conditions due to the coronavirus pandemic. The organizations have launched a month-long grassroots fundraising effort and will begin accepting applications from Provincetown businesses in mid-October.
The Cape Cod Resilience Fund will issue one-time grants of $500 to $2,000 to eligible Provincetown businesses to supplement day-to-day operational expenses such as rent, staff, supplies, inventory, marketing, and training. Preference is given to year-round, community-minded, brick and mortar businesses located in a downtown area. Since its launch the Cape Cod Resilience Fund has raised over $117,000 and provided grants to 114 businesses across Cape Cod.
For more information, visit lovelivelocal.com/resilience
Amanda Converse is CEO of Love Live Local.